Rhinelander swim team members, from left, David King, Thaddeus Heck, Martin Hoger and Russell Benoy pose with their medals after winning the 200-yard medley really at a WIAA Division 2 boys’ swim sectional at Hudson High School Saturday, Feb. 10. The four, plus Joseph Heck and Devon Gaber, are heading to the WIAA state meet in Madison this Friday. The Hodags qualified for state in six events. (Submitted photo)
2/13/2018 7:34:00 AM Hodag swimmers send 7 entries to state
The Rhinelander High School boys' swim team knew it could have a big day at sectionals if it swam well. The Hodags ended up swimming even better than that.
Rhinelander posted two sectional championships and earned seven state-qualifying entries as they finished third in an 11-team WIAA Division 2 sectional Saturday in Hudson.
"I think the kids really swam the meet of their life today," Hodag co-coach Jenny Heck said.
The question of whether the Hodags would qualify for state was quickly answered as Rhinelander took the 200-yard medley relay to earn an automatic bid to this Friday's state meet in Madison. Joseph Heck got an automatic berth later in the day by winning the 100 breaststroke and the Hodags earned five at-large bids by posting times that placed within the top 16 statewide.
Russell Benoy will be going to state in both the 50 and 100 freestyle, David King qualified in the 100 butterfly, Thaddeus Heck made it in the 100 breaststroke and the Hodags also qualified in the 200 freestyle relay.
"You always hope it all comes together when it's supposed to, but you never know if it's going to - if everyone's going to be healthy, no injuries, no sickness, any of that," Jenny Heck said, admitting that she and co-coach Marna Winnicki were both fighting back tears poolside as the Hodags turned in strong time after strong time. "They worked so hard and they tapered well. I think they surpassed what we even thought we they would do."
The quartet of Martin Hoger, Thaddeus Heck, King and Benoy set the tone, dropping 2.5 seconds from their seed time to win the medley relay (1:44.62).
"That was huge," Winnicki said. "That was the confidence booster the guys needed to know that they were swimming fast and could continue swimming fast."
That led to another big relay race later in the day as Joseph Heck, Hoger, Devon Gaber and Benoy went 1:31.62 in the 200 freestyle relay. Though they finished second in the sectional behind Lakeland, their time was the fourth-fastest overall in Division 2 on Saturday.
"We thought we did well, but we didn't realize we did that well," Jenny Heck said. "All four of those guys swam out of their minds. We're really happy with Devon. He didn't swim as well as he wanted in the 50 free, individually, but came back and really went after the 100 free with a best time and he really did what we needed him to do in the relay."
Benoy posted a 22.2-second split to close out the freestyle relay, part of a big day overall in the sprint events for the Hodag junior. He finished third in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. His time of 22.41 in the 50 was eighth-fastest in the state and his 49.83-second time in the 100 was 12th best.
"He's always been a strong swimmer and one we've been able to count on the entire season as far as working his hardest and performing when he needs to perform," Winnicki said. "He's giving 100 percent and it's showing in his times."
The Hodags caught a bit of a break with Lakeland's Tyler Teichmiller, the top seed in the 100-breaststroke, missing the meet due to an injury sustained earlier in the week. That opened the door for a match race between cousins Joseph and Thaddeus Heck, who finished 1-2 in the event. Joseph (1:04.07) beat Thaddeus by 0.43 seconds, but Thaddeus' time was fast enough to make it as an at-large qualifier.
"We're really excited. How great is it to have both guys go 1-2 and both make it to state. That's fantastic," said Jenny Heck, Joseph's mom and Thaddeus' aunt.
King, who was sitting on the bubble with the 16th-fastest seed time in the state in the 100 butterfly, broke through with a 2.36-second improvement in the event. His time of 55.64 was good for second in the race and 12th in the state.
"I think David finally realized he could do it," coach Heck said. "He went out and took it out fast. He didn't wait to come back that second 50 like he's been all season. He took it out. He wanted it and he deserved his place to state."
King and Hoger took fourth and fifth in the 100 backstroke, Joseph Heck was sixth in the 100 freestyle and Hoger was seventh in the 100 butterfly. Rhinelander added a fifth-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay with the team of King, Gaber, Heck and Heck.
Lakeland won the sectional title with 290.5 points. The Hodags were only 38.5 points behind the T-Birds in third and, if not for the 20 points River Falls received for taking first place in a diving event that had only two entries, Rhinelander would have finished second. The Hodags beat every other GNC school in the field. Tomahawk was fourth, Antigo was eighth, Shawano was ninth and Medford finished 11th.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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